Highway Department works to improve town, part I
The Highway Department plays many roles in improving the town, many of those roles often overlooked or misunderstood. Highway workers are always up to something, covering a wide range of tasks that include branch pickup and road repaving.
“We’re always doing something,” said Mark Wegner, superintendent of the Highway Department.
The department this year has already accomplished a great deal, although the projects slated for 2012 are seemingly endless.
In March, highway employees worked closely with the Engineering Department on major road reconstruction in Stiglemeier Park’s posterior. The paving crew, which takes care of town roads, is expected to complete approximately 66 streets this year alone, covering 16.5 miles and 23,000 tons of material in the course of the work.
The Highway Department drainage crew has a goal to install more than 14,000 feet of pipe improvements, catch basins, and manholes spread throughout town. And 147 sidewalk handicap ramps and nearly 2,100 sidewalk blocks are yet another goal the department expects to accomplish.
According to the town website, tocny.org, the Highway Department performs the following: loose branch pickup, carcass removal, ditch clean up, leaf pickup, pot hole repair, receiver clean up, snow removal and plowing, traffic lighting and sign maintenance, street maintenance, tree planting, tree removal, and an electronic recycling program.
Needless to say, the department is quite busy.
But some fail to understand exactly what it is that the Highway Department does in the town. At the last Town Board meeting, a couple residents seemed unimpressed with the work, stating that it seems as though the workers stand around doing nothing. Others expressed concern over the length of time in which projects are completed.
Their concerns stem from misunderstanding and a lack of patience, according to Mark Wegner, Highway Department superintendent, who would be the first to know if work was not being accomplished.
Councilmember Jerry Kaminski says that people fail to realize that even when it appears that no work is being done, something is actually being worked on. For example, a worker may appear to be standing around when in fact he is actually monitoring a site to ensure his colleagues’ safety.
And as for the timeliness of highway projects, Deputy Superintendent Mike Lumadue says that patience is key. The department budgets projects over a 10-year span, with the 2012 budget road pavements being $1,884,000. And so far, the projects planned for this year have been moving along quite rapidly, although not quick enough for some who want their streets paved immediately.
Priority for street repaving is given to roads in the worst shape. It is important to know the difference between town, state, and county roads when considering the work being done in town. Most side streets are town roads, which many people do not realize – a fact that makes a huge difference in considering the work the department completes.
Highway Department trucks are wired with GPS systems to ensure that work is not only being done, but that it is being done in the proper and timely manner. Lumadue says there are no secrets when it comes to the department – everything is kept in an electronic database and is tracked by the GPS system, which is installed on 63 trucks.
For Wegner, Lumadue, and the rest of the department, the most important thing, they say, that people need to understand is the logic of what the department can and cannot do. Not everything is completed in a day, not everything is planned to be completed in a year even. It’s all part of a process, and the process takes time and effort.
“I’ll defend this department ‘til the end,” said Councilmember Kaminski. “Because by my estimation, they do a hell of a good job.”
A more in depth article on the Highway Department’s works will be published as a second installment of a series in next weekend’s issue of The Cheektowaga Source. Be sure to check out next weekend’s edition to learn more about the Cheektowaga Highway Department.